Bridging the gap between Waterfall PM and Agile Implementation

Focusing on the financial industry

In our fast-paced world, efficient project management has become crucial. Diverse organizations are taking advantage of technology and are depending on project management systems to deliver their projects successfully. Whether it is time management, team workflow management, controlling, reporting, or risk management, project management systems and methods will help to ensure that the whole project remains on track. Project management (PM) nowadays serves to handle two worlds: the old Waterfall PM at management level, and the new Agile Implementation at the operational level. Which differences exist between these two, what are the main challenges, and what can be done to bring them together in our changing world and its industries, especially inside of the financial industry?

What about the financial industry?

The financial industry, with its legacy systems and processes, continuously demands more projects with a fast time-to-market conversion. Therefore, digitalization has become a driver to revolutionize the industry. Companies disseminate information about products and services, processes or customer behavior in electronic form. The products and services themselves are digital. Furthermore, the speed and power of these digital structural changes is often underestimated. Traditional banks are clearly late adopters when compared to other competitors (e.g., Digital Banks) or industries. It is then in their best interests to implement innovative digital solutions to remain relevant and not lose the connection to either complementary third-party product offerings or competitors. 

The banking sector, with long-term projects (over one year), is facing a tremendous change within the next 3 to 5 years. This time of transformation is a major strategic challenge for the executive management of every bank –probably the biggest in recent decades. This sustainable transformation and development ranges from the front office to the back office across every department. Professional and personal requirements as well as qualitative competences required from the employees raise are steadily increasing. Above all, high levels of IT competence and IT affinity are becoming more and more important to all employees and executives. The complexity of IT and the growing security requirements of the digital age are enlarging the number of software solutions, business apps and platforms that support the business. Active cooperation between management and IT consultants is a practical idea to properly adapt and integrate security and business processes.


Issues Only

Focusing on the financial industry and its digitalization, three key issues within project management can be identified:

1. Cost pressure: Persistently low interest rates, increasing competition due to globalization and digitalization, worldwide comparability of products and services, and the continuing regulatory pressure characterize the financial sector. These factors, amongst others, lead to a permanent cost pressure to stay competitive.

2. Less innovation driven: The financial industry is not famous for great innovations. One reason is the slow time-to-market mainly due to old Waterfall projects. Furthermore, innovations are slowed down because new Agile approaches are perhaps known by senior management, but not implemented. As a result, only a small percentage of projects are carried out with Agile methodologies in a reasonable time-to-market. Especially in large traditional organizations with established structures, processes and old hierarchies are not set up for innovation driven approaches and changes. Organizations have to rethink their structures and processes.

3. Inadequate employees: Finding highly skilled employees to lead and manage the balance between old Waterfall PM and new Agile implementation is very rare. In general, change, progress and innovation need room to develop to be able to move the whole business forward. In order to implement this, new young employees focusing on innovative approaches (e.g., Agile IT implementations) must be engaged and encouraged in their development.

For Waterfall project managers who have not had any contact to Agile projects in the past, an Agile project looks like completely unstructured chaos. The mindset and approach of Waterfall and Agile project management are contrary. These project managers cannot handle the two different approaches in the right manner. Either they are skilled on old Waterfall approach or they have learnt the Agile way.


Wait! The financial industry is not lost

The proposed solution is to focus on the next 3–5 years as an interim transition phase towards a future full-scaled Agile framework. To implement well-established Agile structures across the organization, an adopted “Project Management Role Model” is the interim solution that can fill the gap. The model will still fit the Waterfall project management activities and consider the Agile implementation tasks and methods when possible. This solution focuses on four categories (communication, coordination, method and tools, and leadership), which a project manager has to fulfill nowadays between the two worlds:

  •  Communication
  • Coordination
  • Method and tools
  • Leadership

Learn more in the downloadable publication on how to put these four categories into practice successfully.  


Choosing the right partner at your side: Deloitte can support you

Deloitte has a dedicated team of experts, including certified SCRUM masters, product owners, SCRUM professionals, analysts and project managers. With experience over a variety of agile projects and ongoing development of our consultants, Deloitte enables clients to achieve their digital and innovation goals over time. Working with Deloitte’s Investment Management practice will help you become a digital player in the market and a leading innovative brand in the financial industry.

Dominik Moulliet 
Director | Consulting


Dr. Torben Küpper
Manager | Consulting


Andreas Kamps
Senior Consultant | Consulting

Dr. Torben Küpper
Manager | Consulting

Bastian Altmann
Consultant | Consulting